Agape

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The Greek language has four words for love: storge, the bond of empathy and family; philia, friendship; eros, a romantic bond; and my personal favorite, agape. Agape means unconditional love. In other words, it is the love that God feels for us. Every story in the Bible is a product of agape. Agape is the reason God forgave Gomer every time she returned to her sinful life. Agape is why Ruth followed Naomi into the foreign land of Israel. Agape is how Jesus died and was resurrected to redeem us.

Of all four types of love, none are as pure as agape. Did the type of love Paul described in 1 Corinthians sound impossible to you? Of course it did. It’s impossible to be patient, kind, and selfless all of the time. Unconditional love is difficult for humans because it is our nature to love conditionally. There are those whom we love so much we would do anything for…but there are also people we do not want to love. Jesus called us to love those who have wronged us. It’s hard to love everyone because, in our flawed eyes, not everyone is worthy of our love. Why should we love our enemies when they do not love us?

To me, this is why the story of Jesus Christ is so perfect. He didn’t die for the sinless, He died to forgive those who sinned against Him. Why is God’s love so perfect? Because God is love. If we loved like that, the world would be a much more peaceful place.

There is one more Greek word that, while is not included in the four loves, is a beautiful demonstration of philia. That word is Koinonia, which means the fellowship that binds Christians. A good example of koinonia is a church community. I’ve found that fellowship among Christians is a window to Christ. My Bible study at college is called Koinonia. We study God’s word together, pray together, and live together. Through my koinonia with them, I am able to understand agape more clearly.

I encourage you to think about the agape God feels for you. Jesus’s two greatest commandments are to love God and to love one another. It is impossible to love as perfectly as God does, but if you love God, then loving others gets a little easier.

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